Chiloe is a magical place, an archipelago located in the south of Chile in front of the northern part of the Chilean Patagonia. Beautiful landscapes, stilt colorful houses, wooden churches, friendly people and a unique mythology are some of the highlights of Chiloe.
“Chiloé mágico”, it’s sometimes called. Magical Chiloe.
Chiloe is indeed a special place, an archipelago located in the south of Chile in front of the northern part of the Chilean Patagonia. Due to its remote location and historical isolation it has developed a unique culture and charm. It’s like being in another world.
Beautiful landscapes, stilt colorful houses, wooden churches, friendly people and a unique mythology are some of the highlights of Chiloe.
I arrived past midnight, after a 14 hours journey by ferry from northern Patagonia. A small dot on the Pacific ocean, the ferry moved up and down between ocean and rain. I arrived a bit dizzy but willing to explore this magical land.
Chiloé island is the biggest island in the archipelago of the same name. It’s a green island, home to the Valdivian temperate rain forest. It somehow reminded me of some parts in New Zealand.
With the majority of food coming from the sea, most towns and villages are constructed on the coast. The capital and biggest city is Castro, on the eastern side of the island, a good location to explore others places as the Chiloe National Park and the villages of Dalcahue and Chonchi.
Palafitos, the stilt houses of Chiloe
I didn’t know much about Chiloe before I arrived, but I had heard about the “palafitos”.
The “palafitos” are stilt wooden houses built over the water. They’re very colorful and very characteristic from the archipelago. They reminded me of the stilt houses I had seen in northern Laos, but in a more colorful version.
Not only they’re colorful, the external part is covered in wooden pieces of a geometrical design. Different houses had different designs. In some houses they’re rounded, or triangular, or featuring another shape. The same kind of colorful geometrical decoration was used in the houses built on the land (not the stilt houses).
Chiloe wooden churches
Another highlight of Chiloe are the wooden churches. There are over 150 wooden temples, entirely made of wood, colorful on the outside and beautifully decorated inside.
The oldest ones were built by the jesuits during the 18th Century. Some of them have disappeared but some of them are well preserved. Being about 300 years old they are some of the oldest wooden constructions in the world. No wonder 16 of them have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mythology of Chiloe
If there is something really special in Chiloe is the Chilote mythology. The origin of their myths and legends is a mixture of the indigenous beliefs and the colonizers legends and superstitions. They are linked to the ocean and are still alive.
“Millalobo” is the king of the sea. He has a wife, “Huenchula”, and three children, “Pincoy” (the price) and “Pincoya” and “sirena chilota” (the princesses), who influence the fish. “Caleuche” is a fantom ship which can be sometimes seen near the shore. And there are many others.
I saw some of them in the form of sculptures and paintings. This distinct culture was somehow present in many places. Even the street art in Chiloe was very characteristic.
Weather in Chiloe
I learnt in New Zealand that green landscapes means rainy weather, and Chiloe was no exception.
I was there in June, winter time, and it rained every day for one week. Fortunately most of the days it didn’t rain the entire day, though it was still quite hard to be there when it was cold and rainy.
I think that it’s better to visit in summer, even if it means high season. Hardly anybody goes there in winter. I don’t think I saw any tourist that week and in the tourist office I was told that they hadn’t received any visit for one month.
Food in Chiloe
Even the food in Chiloe is characteristic and different from other parts of the country. Chiloe’s gastronomy is a fusion of Mapuche and Spanish food with influences from Chile and Argentina. The main ingredients in their dishes are “papas” (potatoes), fish and sea food:
“Chapalele”: dumpling made of boiled potatoes and wheat flour.
“Milcao”: kind of potato pancake prepared with raw grated potatoes, cooked mashed potatoes and some other ingredients as pork.
“Curanto al hoyo”: the one you should try! It consists on chicken, sausages, smoked pork, potatoes, “chapalele”, “milcao” and seafood slowly cooked inside a hole on the ground.
I had heard that people in Chiloe are very friendly and they are! Maybe it helped that it was low season and, as I said before, there weren’t many tourists. And specially, there weren’t many girls traveling alone, so locals were curious and talked to me.
One woman I met in the bus was a bit concerned about me traveling alone.
- “Is it dangerous here?”, I asked.
- “No, it’s safe here in Chiloe but take care when you travel north”.
In Quellon I started talking with a woman who had a souvenir shop. She told me about the “toninas”, the small dolphins that can be seen from the shore (photo below!).
In Chonchi I met a woman in the church who told me about the church and the wood which was used for its construction. We also compared the way of heating the houses in Chiloe, Patagonia and Barcelona.
In Dalcahue, I entered a restaurant to try the famous “curanto al hoyo”. Looking for someone to ask, I ended up in the place where two men were cooking. They showed me the hole that contained the meat and seafood. They told me to take a sit in the restaurant and they called me back when they opened the hole so I could see it.
Have you visited Chiloe? Have you been to any magical, unique place?
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Chiloe looks simply AMAZING. I love any colourful, bright location, and your photographs are just beautiful!! This has just become a new dream destination for me!
Hi Lynn! Yes, Chiloé is amazing… and unique! highly recommended!
Megan | Red Around The World says
Those houses on the stilts are so cute! I love the colors of them! Chile is super high on my list of places to see and this places is now on my Chile list!
Hi Megan! I spent three months in Chile and loved everywhere I went. The north and south are very different from each other so there are many different places to see 🙂
Kelly Duhigg says
What a great post. This place sounds amazing. I love the vibrantly colored stilt houses. They look so charming. I don’t know if I could survive the boat over thought because I get seasick, but I would love to check this place out!!! Thanks!!
Thanks Kelly! Don’t worry about the boat, you can go to Chiloé by bus (from the north) and I think there might be flights as well.
This looks absolutely amazing! I, too, have seen stilt houses throughout Asia, but these palafitos are so much more colorful. I love that you included the shots of their tiled details as well.
… but let’s be real, the curanto al hoyo is the real factor that convinced me I need to visit 😉 My god, that looks divine.
Haha I completely understand Alex, the curanto al hoyo was divine!
“Tiles”! That was the word I was looking for and couldn’t find, thanks!!!
Itinera Magica says
I dream of visiting CHile and I loved everything I saw here: the dolphin, the colorful houses, bright churches, atmosphere… It looks like a dream!
It is like a dream, Chiloé is a very special place (a bit rainy, but special!) 🙂
Kyntra Strickland says
I have never heard of Chiloe, but would love to visit! Your pictures are lovely and it sounds like you had a wonderful adventure. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Kyntra! Yes I had a great experience! Well it was a bit hard because of the cold and rain, but totally worth it! The place and the people were wonderful
Rosie Benton says
Ahhh we are heading to SA this year so your post got me super excited! Photos are beautiful, will add it to our itinerary! Thanks for sharing we’d never have known otherwise.
Hi Rosie! I think Chiloé is not so well known, I learned about it from a local friend, but it is a great place to visit!
Kiara Gallop says
Most articles I’ve read on Chile talk about it’s mountains, lakes, and desert areas, so it’s so nice to read about a different side to the country. Chiloe looks like such a cute little town. I absolutely adore the colourful palafitos and the unique wooden churches 🙂
Hi Kiara! Yes, that’s right, the most popular places in Chile (and so the most written about) are the mountains in Patagonia and the Atacama desert. But Chile is sooooo long that it has many other things! I actually discovered Chiloé thanks to a local friend, so it might be a bit off the beaten path 🙂
Alice Chen says
This is absolutely amazing! I’m in LOVE with Chile but only got to travel through the northern half (ATACAMA DESERT??? INCREDIBLE) and am SO looking forward to the South!I had no idea it had these beautiful islands but I will be going here for sure!
Hi Alice! Oh I do agree that the Atacama desert is incredible! I think it’s quite difficult to see most of Chile in a single trip, it’s so long. If you have the opportunity to visit the south I do recommend Chiloé
The food here sounds like a damn dream! My goodness I’m in love! I feel like this place is just so filled with culture… I’m dying to go now!!
Hi Jamie! Yes, Chiloé is filled with culture and it’s very interesting because it’s a bit different than other parts of Chile. And the food… worth a visit!
I’d love to see the interiors of those Palafitos and maybe stay there! The food is definitely right up my alley!
Oh yes it would be nice to see them inside and stay there! I don’t know if there are homestays in palafitos, maybe there are?